As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect”. You can acquire patience the more you practice it. The secret is persistence. Surely you have heard someone say, “wait, be patient, the storm will pass.” In todays fast-paced society patience is short lived while the storm is continuous and sometimes downright turbulent. The ability to willingly suppress restlessness, or an annoyance, when confronted with delay is absurd in the technological age. The characteristic of bearing provocation, misfortune, or pain without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like is seriously not going to happen. In our hyped-up, faster-is-better culture, try standing in the endless lines at your supermarket. What you witness is people looking at their watches, heavy sighs, cell phone conversations and eventually over the loud speaker the manager announces, “all cashiers report to your stations.” Or have you ever driven on the freeway, behind someone who was actually driving the speed limit continuously as people pass them at an accelerated pace? Even authors like Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D. and Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph. D. fail to mention the concept of patience in their many books of happiness, positivity and learning – so why do I need it? Then, I asked myself; why amid so much technological efficiency is there still no patience, but persistent time-poverty? It seems a turbocharged life is still the ultimate trophy on the mantelpiece. As if status is determined by one not having to wait for any of their wants, needs and desires.
It is hugely important when you can’t wait and simply do not have the time nor patience to tolerate the moment. I know I have moaned a time or two to the tune “I’m so busy, that my life is a blur, and I haven’t got time to do anything.”
Sex has no preference as men and women are equally susceptible to faster-than-thou one-upmanship. Over time we’ve created a microwave generation – where younger folks have lost the will to wait for anything. Everything must be made-to-order within minutes! Including relationships, financial endeavors and personal gains. We create generation after generation of excited, energetic and controlling consumers of life. The lack of patience has become part of the American fabric. The notion of ‘I needed it yesterday’ is being imbedded in our children, our manners, communication style, perceptions, and relationships.
Edgar Cayce, an American psychic, alleged there were three planes that govern the earth: time, space and patience. If you managed your efforts and stress levels you could enhance patience, changing your relationship to time and space. The concept indicates that the health of our bodies could be a direct manifestation of our state of mind. Da! We read this message in print all the time in health journals, magazines, and newspapers. Here is the secret; patience has a lot to do with time and your stress level, making patience more like money. We even talk about being “time-rich,” or more often, “time-poor.” So, I wager to say if you’re time-poor, you’re likely impatient. The answer to how patient we will allow ourselves to be lies in how we think about time itself. It seems the American culture is more prone than others cultures to race against the clock. A Google search on patience will turn up scores of sermons railing against the demon speed. Patience requires simply a pause now and then, allowing one to assess where they are going, how quickly they wish to get there and more importantly, why. Patience can expose the beauty of experiences or reveal what a situation really has to offer.
Our society obsesses over fast speed internet, losing 40 pounds in two weeks, making your first million in your 20’s, immediate exercise results, and getting everything you need and want now! Not now but right now … or yesterday. Actually, two days ago! Patience may seem like an under-utilized moment, but these seemingly flat periods of your day, become quiet reflections of the past, layered with a glimpse of anticipation for what may lie ahead. Life cannot be an ongoing crescendo; there must be some balance. Without patience we tend to rush the moment, miss the learning, see less, feel less, and hear less – performing all the daily vital tasks of life on a lesser level. Multitasking involves rushing to get things done usually at the expense of patience. The “must have it now” mindset goes against a quality existence. With patience comes greater forethought and opportunity, by helping one to sort out the things that actually matter most from the things that matter least.
A contemporary example of how we lack patience is illustrated through our levels of consumption; the idea of instant gratification is pervasive. As a nation we are brainwashed to believe we live in a world where healthy diets, regular exercise, and the use of injectables combined with plastic surgery can change the future and roll back time. The media gives us the gift of constant images that suggest that success can be ours through the ownership of status and stuff. On a daily basis we hear about the beautiful people and their beautiful friends, in their fantastic cars, living in their dream home. Somewhere along the rocky road of happiness we have become impatient, wanting quick fixes to all our woes. With the click of a mouse, technology tends to shortcut any hope of allowing patience to take hold. Why be patient? Why not move at the speed of change. For example, we tend to lose our patience when we are multitasking or when we’re on a tight schedule, as if expecting the day to pass within only a few short minutes. Impatience tends to creep into the day slowly, in an unapparent manner making you feel a sense of anxiety.
A common illusion entertained by those searching for lifestyle change is that it can be applied like a formula or taken like a pill. When one thinks about the things that alter our lives in a moment, most are unsatisfactory and simply not up to scratch over the long haul. Be aware of your impatience, learn from it and perhaps uncover the thought patterns that are unhealthy or destructive to your next pressing decision. Patience allows you to explore and learn about changes you seek, yet patience can only be cultivated and nurtured over time, not days, minutes or seconds. It should be obvious by now that any process directed at substantive behavioral shift, are those generated gradually through well-established patterns of new thinking. These new practices require the effort of time, insights, re-evaluation, trying new approaches and, of course, patience!
If we really want to participate in and enjoy a meaningful existence and not just attend this experience called “your life”, then you may need to buy into slowing down, taking a moment to decipher each instance in time rather than simply respond to an urge. The role of time, patience, and reflection is really that flicker of consciousness between the silences. Without space between musical notes there can’t be a beautiful melody or harmony, right?
How does one develop patience? By remembering that patience is a mental skill to be mastered. And, as cliche as it may sound, life is not a race but rather a journey full of experiences to be enjoyed and remembered after lessons have been learned, applied and used as a springboard.
Ask yourself, ‘why am I in such a hurry?’ Try to think through why you are in such a hurry. You can then think logically and decide whether your impatience is warranted. Not focusing on what matters most in life tends to fuel impatience.
Target the triggers that influence you to lose your sense of patience. What are the circumstances surrounding your feelings of impatience? Look for patterns of behavior that lend to the feeling of impatience.
Record your patience or impatience in a journal. Committing your thoughts to paper can lead to a better understanding of yourself and your thought process. Get in touch with that “I need it now” feeling. This newfound awareness will help you identify alternative strategies.
Change your attitude about your life’s circumstance. Assess your perception of a situation. Ask yourself, what is real, valid, or relevant. Without understanding the powerful effect of your viewpoint, it becomes virtually impossible to appreciate why your reaction leads to impatient behavior in the first place.
If you can’t do anything about your circumstances, move on. Don’t waste emotional energy with situations you can’t control. Practice makes patient. Like any brain exercise, new thinking creates new neuropathways to new behavior. Gradually the old reactions and urges weaken while the new behaviors take root allowing you to gradually develop the strength and tolerance to remain patient when encountering the most trying and enduring situations.
Some situations take time and cannot be rushed. For instance, recovering from a having a baby, surgery, a broken limb or losing 250 pounds. The law of patience points to the notion that if you work hard at something, most times you have to apply patience to get exactly what you want. A diligent exercising of patience is sure to yield maximum results.
Take time to experience the happier moments in life. Think about the times you’ve felt completely moved – the last time you were truly happy about an outcome. They were probably instances where your extra time paid off. Good things may not always follow in the wake of those who are patient, yet most good things worthwhile in life don’t happen right way either.
Plan for more than you anticipated because sometimes “shit happens.” Reassess all the twists and turns in life as an introduction to unfamiliar opportunities.
Be still. In the words of Eckhart Tolle, a widely recognized spiritual teacher of our time, best known for his writing on “The Power of Now,” sit quietly and think about absolutely nothing. Learn about YOU! Yes so you’re missing the occasional ping on your phone, Instagram or Tweet, and you’re starting to feel impatient after a few minutes, yet by practicing this form of mental state of time out, you will essentially learn to slow down your world and focus. Abandoning your smartphone, tablet or laptop for 30 minutes to an hour shouldn’t be a loathsome task to fulfill. In fact, this kind of quiet should be welcomed. Your new mantra should be, ‘Life doesn’t run on a perfect schedule.’
Stop holding yourself and others to an unattainable expectation. Life would be great if we didn’t get flat tires, appointments didn’t run late, computers didn’t crash, and human’s didn’t make human mistakes. But that is never going to stop.
Now you are ready to answer the question, why be patient? It is easy to see that once you possess the ability to change your thinking, you will start to change your attitude regarding the slowness of situations. As you practice patience you will start to become aware of a newfound tolerance for unexpected disruptions and minor offsets – it should be embraced as common practice of your thought process. Notice how you have a higher tolerance toward disruption, of any trial or tribulation. The strategies you create will help new patient behaviors take root on a landscape full of impatience. As a strategy if you were in a doctor’s office and the only thing you could focus on is the your time being wasted, I imagine your capacity for patience would fall by the side of the road. So exercise your patience and bring a book everywhere you go, or a mind game, whatever you prefer.
Of course if all else fails, write about it. America is a writer’s paradise. We don’t just write, we blog, journal and tweet. Research has shown that individuals who journal about their emotions tend to become more aware, calmer, and accepting of their feelings. Or simply practice patience at home – isn’t that a novel thought? Nobody is perfect, and if you are patient with family and friends you may actually get an insight about yourself. Developing patience is not effortless. Patience is the foundation for a healthy mind and body, reducing stress levels and improving quality of life and longevity. But the biggest payoff is that patience can make you happy.